The American Medical Association is taking a public stand to stem what it calls "the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color," as well as discrimination faced by the entire LGBTQ community.
The AMA's House of Delegates voted this month to adopt a plan to help bring national attention to this problem following an uptick in the number of fatal attacks against trans people.
“According to available tracking, fatal anti-transgender violence in the U.S. is on the rise and most victims were black transgender women, said AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D., in a statement. While organizations like Human Rights Campaign and LGBTQ news media regularly report on the murders of trans Americans, mainstream news media too often report crimes without accurate information about a victim's gender identity, and local police have a long way to go to assist federal law enforcement in properly cataloguing hate crimes against trans and gender non-conforming individuals.
The physicians and medical students gathered at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago earlier this month adopted a new policy in hopes of calling attention to the disturbing pattern of violence toward transgender Americans, in particular trans women of color.
The policy outlines a plan to team-up with other medical organizations and advocates, using verified data on hate crimes against transgender individuals to educate members of the public, legislatures and law enforcement, and to highlight the disproportionate number fatal attacks on black transgender women.
The AMA will lobby law enforcement for consistent collection and reporting of data on hate crimes, to include accurate demographic information such as victim’s birth sex and gender identity, and for the creation of a central law enforcement database to collect data on reported hate crimes that correctly identifies a victim's identity.
In addition, the AMA plans to advocate for stronger policies regarding how law enforcement interacts with transgender individuals to stamp out bias and mistreatment and increase community trust.
Local, state, and federal agencies can also expect to hear from the AMA, about their efforts to increase LGBTQ patient access to mental health care and address the health disparities that members of the community too often experience.
The crisis that disproportionately impacts trans women of color is an intersectional one, according to Beverly Tillery, the executive director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, a nonprofit which combats violence against the LGBTQ and HIV-positive communities through counseling and advocacy. Not only are members of this community trans, but they are also black, women and often poor.
“All of the discrimination results in people often living lives that are just more vulnerable to violence. You have a job that is more tenuous, you live in places that are more tenuous,” Tillery told Time Magazine. And in addition to all that, “people look at you and they don’t care about your existence and they don’t value your life.”
That's why the AMA House of Delegates, through this policy, is showing it does care. According to AMA literature, this policy-making body brings together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Their work is to build national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government, and to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.
Dr. Mukkamala conceded that is part of the problem.
“The number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence," he said.
So far in 2019, the death toll stands at ten, and all of the victims were trans women of color. HRC tabulated 26 transgender victims of murder in 2018, but the number could easily be much higher, and advocates say the number of reported attacks has increased in recent years.